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Too Few to Mention – Thomas Calabrese

By   /  April 23, 2023  /  11 Comments


I’m Living My Life My Way

Thomas Calabrese – Kern Smith was a decorated helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. After serving on active duty with the Marine Corps for twelve years, Kern went in the reserves and studied to become a military chaplain. He served another 18 years in some of the most dangerous places in the world before retiring. After returning to the civilian world, Kern began working with the Mighty Oaks Foundation. This was a faith-based service organization that helps Veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress readjust to civilian life.

Kern lived next door to the Mantee family in the Rancho Del Oro area of Oceanside, California. John Mantee was a former Marine who currently worked on Camp Pendleton as a pipefitter. He had three sons; Bill, Josh and Luke. Bill was a wildland firefighter assigned to the Redding, California Hotshots. Josh was a big wave rider and competed against the best surfers in the world. Luke was a nationally ranked mixed martial arts fighter and trained at the Dante Bocelli Gym in Escondido.

Kern and Luke became great friends and the seasoned veteran took on the position of Luke’s unofficial mentor. They were sitting by the Oceanside Pier and looking out to sea. It was a calm sunny morning and Kern commented, “Still water reflects the sun perfectly. When a soul is calm and clear, it reflect truth, beauty and goodness.”

            “I don’t know how much truth, beauty and goodness is in my soul,” Luke replied.

            “As the day goes on, the wind will pick up and so will the waves and before you know it, you won’t be able to see the reflection anymore. You have to take advantage of the tranquil moments if you ‘re going to get a proper assessment of the situation and yourself.”

            “You’re talking over my head, but I kind of get your point,” Luke said.

After a few minutes the two men walked away and Kern continued to elaborate on his point of view, “The Bushmen of the Kalahari talk about the ‘Two Hungers’. There is the Great Hunger and the ‘Little Hunger’. The Little Hunger yearns for food while the Great Hunger, the hunger inside our heart and soul is the overwhelming desire for meaning.”

            “That makes sense,” Luke said.

Kern continued, “There is nothing wrong in searching for happiness, who doesn’t want to be happy…right?  Happiness occurs as a result of something else.  What is greater than happiness or sadness is meaning, because it will transform you. Once you have meaning, you have contentment. Think about this…have you ever met anyone who is content with their life and is unhappy?”

            “Nobody comes to mind,” Luke said.

            “If you do find someone then please let me know and I’ll immediately change my philosophy.” Kern said, “Great and heroic people are able to find clarity in a chaotic and confusing world and act accordingly. When you are faced with a life-changing decision, you need to have clarity in your arsenal.”

            “How do you do that?” Luke asked.

            “Train your mind, your heart and your soul, “Kern said, “This technique works for me. There is a time at the end of each day when we lay our heads on our pillows and our bodies start to relax and our egos slowly let go. There are many terms for this special time, I call mine ‘dream thinking’. I’m able to make decisions without fear of repercussions and boundaries. I might change my mind a few times from the moment I close my eyes to the time I open them again. That flexibility also gives me clarity. In my dreams I can put aside personal preference, self-interest and even my own self-preservation to do the right thing. Obviously my behavior isn’t the same when I’m asleep as when I’m awake, but in dream thinking, perception is my reality.”

            “A few months ago, football player Aaron Rodgers checked into a sensory deprivation facility called Sky Cave Retreats for a prolonged stay in a room completely devoid of light. He said that he was spending the time in isolation to have a better sense of where he was in his life,” Luke said, “Something like that?”

            “Make your own modifications, there are no set rules,” Kern said.

Luke respected Kern too much to not make an honest and sincere effort before making a decision about the night-time technique, besides his curiosity had been aroused and he was eager to see if it worked for him. After a particularly hard training session at the gym, Luke was exhausted so he went home, ate dinner, and watched two episodes of Gunsmoke until he became sleepy then went upstairs and took a warm shower. When Luke laid down in bed, he inhaled deeply and slowly exhaled ten times. Afterward, Luke contemplated every decision that he made that day in chronological order. He created two mental lists; on one side, he put the choices that he would repeat. On the other side were the ones that he would do differently. When he awakened, Luke felt energized and had a newfound clarity about his life that he did not possess before. He repeated this process for seven nights straight and was eager to tell Kern what he found out from his personal experiment. When they met, Luke could sense that something was on Kern’s mind so he asked, “What’s going on?”

Kern pulled a folded news article from his pocket, opened it and began to read, “Walter Reed Medical Center ended a long-standing contract to provide Catholic pastoral care to veterans and service members, violating their religious freedom. Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for Military Services was quoted, ‘There is currently only one Catholic Army chaplain assigned to Walter Reed Medical Center, but he is in the process of separating from the Army. The decision to hire a secular defense contracting firm in place of Franciscan priests for pastoral care is like hiring a brain surgeon who didn’t go to med school.’

            “That doesn’t sound good,” Luke said

Kern sighed, “The seventh rule in creating a Communist State is to take away God so that faint hearted and weak-minded people will depend on the government for their reasoning and values. Satan comes in all forms and politicians are one of his favorite disguises.”

            “A little cynical, don’t you think?”

            “You’ll have a better chance of defeating your enemies once you know their strengths and weaknesses,” Kern reminded his young friend.

Luke asked, “May I ask you a question?”


            “You spent a lot of time in the military.” Luke said, “Went a lot of places and saw a lot of things.”

            “About 32 years …give or take a few months,” Kern said.

Luke continued, “Would you do it again?”

            “If it was the same culture as when I first enlisted…absolutely. Would I do it now…probably not. Nobody goes to war to fight for the government, they go to fight for the country and end up fighting for the guy next to him.  I learned very quickly that a lot of the people in authority would happily throw me under the bus if it furthered their personal agenda. I adjusted my behavior accordingly and stayed out of their crosshairs. Right now there are too many government bureaucrats that are more concerned about being politically correct and pandering to their social media followers than doing their sworn duty. I’d probably get whiplash from having to keep my head on a swivel because sooner or later I’d say something about my faith or American history and that would offend someone and it would be all downhill from there. Next thing I know I’d be in Leavenworth or dishonorably discharged. We’re at a tipping point in our country and we might have to institute mandatory military service if patriotism gets any lower.  An internal Defense Department survey obtained by NBC News found that only 9% of young Americans eligible to serve in the military have any inclination to do so.”

            “So if I wanted to serve my country…what you tell me?” Luke asked.

            “I’d say, God bless you and God bless America!” Kern said, “ However, there is another option.”

Kern and Luke drove to Bullhead City, Nevada, referred to as Arizona’s West Coast because it is located on the east bank of the Colorado River near the juncture of Arizona, California and Nevada.  They met Mike Hodges, a former Navy Seals, Donny Milner, ex-Green Beret and Steve Restorich, a retired Air Force pararescueman at the Black Bear Diner. After some brief small talk and quick introductions, Kern said, “Luke is interested in serving his country.”

            “And you told him that there might be another option?” Mike said.

Kern smiled, “Then I said, let’s take a ride.”

            “You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think he had potential,” Donny said.

Steve suggested, “Why don’t you come back in two hours.”

            “I can do that,” Kern quickly got from the table and left the diner.

            “What do you want in life?” Mike asked.

            “To master the moment of decision,” Luke answered without hesitation.

When Kern returned two hours later, he asked, “How did it go?”

            “We’ll accept him,” Steve said.

            “Training starts in 10 days…get your affairs in order,” Donny said.

When Luke got home, he told his parents that he got a job on a major construction project   located in the desert. He didn’t know how long he’d be gone, but he’d get in touch the first chance he had. Luke didn’t particularly like deceiving them, but on a need to know basis, they didn’t need to know. In this particular case his parents’ peace of mind superseded his need for transparency. He stopped off to see Kern before getting on the road, “I don’t know what to expect when I get there.”

            “Stay in the moment and keep your focus. There will be brief moments along the way when you can use your clarity of purpose to keep you grounded,” Kern advised, “Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed because that leads to confusion and doubt. This will be the hardest thing that you’ve ever done, so bring your best.” 

 Luke drove the 315 miles back to Bullhead City. When he got to the area, he made a call and a text was sent to his phone. He drove another 20 miles and was stopped at a metal gate by two armed guards. Luke’s name and photo were verified before he was allowed to pass.

The facility had no name. There were a group of temporary structures, underground bunkers, a rifle and pistol range and an elaborate obstacle course. Luke was instructed to go to a particular area when several wooden benches were set up. There were already 20 men there.

Mike, Donny and Steve walked up and Mike said, “Welcome to Warfighters. This training is a combination of everything we’ve learned in our careers without the politics, red tape and bureaucracy.”

            “You might not always agree with our strategy, but if you are not 100 per cent in on the mission then quit,” Donny said, “Don’t waste your time and ours.”

Steve explained, “Philosopher John Stuart Mill, delivered an 1867 inaugural address at the University of St. Andrews and stated: “Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

            “Our sole purpose is to give you the necessary skills to destroy evil. We are not compromisers, negotiators, placaters or spectators. We show no mercy for the merciless and when we fight we are prepared to die for our beliefs and core values, but would prefer that the other guy dies for his. All we can really hope for is that God will look favorably upon us come judgment day,” Donny added.

            “We jump into the fire and embrace the flames,” Steve smiled.

The training began in earnest the next day and it was relentless on every level. When the men weren’t training on the obstacle course, swimming in the Colorado River or learning about weapons and martial arts, they were in the classroom learning about different cultures, world history and languages.

Kern was right, there were moments when Luke had the opportunity to refocus his attention and regenerate his energy. While he was studying Russian history, Mike approached, “Knowledge is power, learning what is good for you requires getting beyond your personal preference and self-interest.”

            “Yes sir,” Luke answered.

One of the last tests for the candidates was surviving in the desert for five days. Each person was given a distress beacon and anytime they wanted to give up, all they had to do was activate it and they would be rescued. Of course, if they did that, they would fail the course. Luke was given a map and his mission was to traverse over 100 miles of rough terrain while rationing his food and water supply along the way.

The lessons that Kern instilled in Luke were invaluable. While the other candidates looked at the desert as an obstacle, Luke embraced the solitude and the struggle as an ally. He traveled the entire distance in three days and sat on a hill that overlooked the finish line for next two days. Coyotes and wolves circled his position, but must have sensed his positive energy and did not attack. Instead, they slept nearby.

When the training was completed, only five of the twenty applicants were left and Luke was one of them. He was ready for his first assignment and Mike told him, “The world is a mess, we both know that, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do something to make it a little less messy. Right now our country is going through a sad and destructive period. Many criminals are addicted to the internet so we’re going to put warnings on the social websites and if they ignore them, we’ll unleash the wrath of justice.”

            “Choices have consequences,” Luke said, “Bad choices have bad consequences.”

For the next week, the following warning was posted on every website and social platform, If you violate the law, you will be putting your lives on the line to do so. Think carefully before proceeding.

A notice of an upcoming flash mob attack was posted online with a time to attack a shopping mall in Irvine, California. The shoplifters were told to meet at the far west of a parking lot at 9am. In preparation for their arrival, Luke and his team placed several sonic nausea electronic acoustic generating devices on the light poles. These non-lethal weapons generate a unique combination of high-pressure sound waves that causes queasiness, headaches, intense irritation, sweating, imbalance, and nausea. Luke turned them on and the lawbreakers fell over in great discomfort. A truck drove by and sprayed a powerful adhesive all over the troublemakers. Next came another vehicle filled with synthetic feathers that were distributed by a powerful blower. By the time Luke and his team left the complex, the aspiring hoodlums were covered.

It would take them hours of hard cleaning and rubbing their skin raw to get the glue and feathers off. It was definitely a harsh lesson, but they definitely deserved it.

For weeks, Luke and his team traveled the country in pursuit of justice. On one of their missions to Kansas City, Missouri they kidnapped a politician who had received millions of dollars in bribes from China and hung him upside down from the Paseo Bridge. Dangling a hundred feet over the Missouri River, the terror stricken political parasite screamed for mercy. He resigned the next day as he laid in his hospital bed before casting the deciding vote on a controversial construction project that would confiscate hundreds of acres from hardworking American farmers.

The Director of Homeland Security repeatedly swore under oath before members of Congress that the Southern border was completely secure and there was nothing to worry about.  When the Border Patrol and the media found him near the Rio Grande River, he was tied to a pole with boxes of fentanyl pills stacked around him. Several human traffickers were shackled together nearby. The sign read; Does this look secure to you?” It made for a great photo.

Luke had become a skilled assassin and he carried out his duties without hesitation and meticulous precision because he truly believed in the mission. He had a high level of emotional intelligence and this allowed him to operate outside normal boundaries. Laws are a poor substitute for integrity and honor because they merely compel us to do what we should do willingly. They are not necessary for those men and women who have a code of honor.

He was in Monaco and engaged in a high stakes poker game with international arms dealer, Viktor Bout. It was the last hand of the night and Luke and Viktor went all in. There was four million euros in the pot. Bout had a full house, aces over sevens. Luke set down his cards, four deuces. Viktor clenched his teeth in anger and stormed off.

Luke turned to the dealer, “Put the money in my account.”

Later that evening, Bout was having dinner in the hotel restaurant with two women companions as his bodyguards stood nearby. Luke walked in and sat down at the table.

 “I don’t remember inviting you.” Bout grumbled, “I’m trying to get the bad taste of losing out of my mouth and you being here isn’t helping.”

            “Lighten up, Viktor, you’re not my first choice for dinner companionship either.  I have a business proposition for you,” Luke said.

Bout told his female companions, “Come back in 20 minutes.”

The women left and Bout said, “You got five minutes.”

Luke set a photo of a superyacht on the table, “Recognize it?”

            “It’s mine, the United States Government took it from me.”

            “I’ve got it,” Luke said.

            “Where?” Bout asked.

“ It is cruising in open waters.”

“So what’s the deal?” Bout asked.

Luke answered, “A group of Americans doing humanitarian work in Ukraine have been taken by Russian forces. I want to know where they are. You give me their location and the appropriate intelligence and when I get them free, I’ll give you the coordinates on where to pick up your yacht.”

Bout thought for a moment, “I really like that yacht…personally designed much of the interior, took four years to build.”

            “I know its history…what do you want to do?”

            “It would be a serious mistake to betray me,” Bout said.

Luke laughed then warned, “What about the people I work for, how do you think they’ll react if you decide go rogue? We got your yacht out of federal impound and that required some serious clout. Once you decide to work with us, there’s no shifting into reverse.”

            “We have a deal,” Bout said.

Luke and a group of men from his organization attacked the holding facility inside the Republic of Crimea and freed all the prisoners which included 63 Americans. When they were back in Poland, Luke made a phone call and gave Bout the coordinates. Viktor put them in his laptop and shook his head when he saw the map on the screen, “Very funny.”

One of Bout’s henchman asked, “Something wrong, sir?”

            “My yacht is docked two miles from my private island!”

Two months later, a platoon of Marines were charged with dereliction of duty and a variety of other charges when some ordinance disappeared during training exercises. They were being set up by individuals in the Defense Department who had stolen the weapons and sold them to the Sinaloa Cartel. When the trial began, the prosecutor for the Marine Corps addressed the court, “All the evidence against the defendants has been misplaced, your Honor. Considering these unusual circumstances, the government has no other choice but to withdraw the charges.”

A drone strike on the fortified compound of the Cartel killed the Defense Department employees and 30 Cartel members.

Serial killer, Richard Kleiner was released from custody after his DNA sample was contaminated in the police lab. He was planning his next murder when there was a knock at his door. He opened it and made eye made contact with Luke and nervously asked, “What the hell do you want?”

            “You know why I’m here,” Luke calmly replied. The aura of evil was undeniable and to a weaker man, it might have been overwhelming or intimidating, but not to Luke who stood his ground like an entrenched pillar of righteousness. It was part of his destiny to deal with these kind of moments.

Kleiner panicked, reached for a gun on the hallway table and raised it to fire it at Luke. A well-placed bullet to his forehead abruptly changed his plan. There was a microsecond before life exited his body that Kleiner’s wicked soul got a vision of what eternal damnation looked like.  

The current death toll from the crisis in Sudan was 270 as the clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitary group, led by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo escalated. A local medical group said Tuesday that 174 civilians had been killed since the fighting broke out, three of which worked for the World Food Program.

Kern didn’t have to ask twice when he talked to Luke about accompanying him on a humanitarian mission to the war torn country. Luke received clearance from his supervisors to take his team with him. They were distributing food and medical supplies to a crowd of Sudanese people outside the capital city of Khartoum when armed troops from both rival factions approached from opposite directions. Luke took his Barrett .50 Caliber Rifle and started for an elevated position to engage both forces.

As Luke walked off, Kern called to him, “Are you going to be alright?”

            “Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind in the right measure,” Luke smiled.

Kern thought to himself that world has always needed Good Samaritans, more now than never and Luke was one of them. From his position on a hill, Luke inflicted enough damage and carnage on the convoys to persuade both them to turn around in retreat. Kern and his volunteers finished passing out the much needed supplies and the empty trucks headed back to the airfield.

While sitting next to each other, Kern commented, “You’ve come a long way in a short time, I’m extremely proud and honored to call you my friend.”

            “I couldn’t have done it without you. You showed me how to become the kind of man that I wanted to be. I found clarity during crucial moments of decisions and that saved my life more than once,” Luke said with deep appreciation.

            “Any regrets?”

            “A few, but too few to mention, but most important of all, I’m living my life my way,” Luke put his hand on Kern’s shoulder. This one small sign of camaraderie was a powerful indication of the unbreakable bond between these warriors. Their level of friendship was only exceeded by their strict adherence to a code of noble conduct and respect for each other.

The End


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  1. Tom says:

    An absolutely amazing saga and sadly, too true! Far too many government people who are only interested in their own paycheck and position and not interested in the people and country they were sworn to support! I like the instant justice as meted out by Luke and Kern…my kind of retribution. Some excellent Hunger philosophy too!
    The only thing better than watching Gunsmoke would be to watch High Noon!

  2. Marty says:

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for another great adventure.

  3. Mark says:

    I admire your steadfastness with producing these stories. Being a writer myself, I know how therapeutic it can be to produce quality written material, and to do so on a regular basis like you do is most impressive. Keeps the brain active as we age also, and that’s priceless. Cheers from Chiang Mai

  4. wolf says:

    This is definitely what this country needs.

  5. Jon Gregory Nielsen says:

    “Top Cat” Calabrese,

    You have written a true GEM of a story today. From the beginning to the very last period… CLASSiC stuff

    Of course, this is just my overwhelming HUMBLE opinion.

    Buddy, Stay STRONG…

  6. john michels says:

    Great read very enjoyable

  7. Robert says:

    That’s my kind of story. Very well written and thoughtful.

  8. Tamra says:

    I was hooked! This story-line was refreshing, intriguing, and humorous, from start to finish, Tom!!!

  9. Clyde says:

    Another great story. I really enjoyed it.

  10. Tony says:

    Another amazing story by Mr. Thomas Calabrese in this Sunday Vista Press that leads me to believe Mr. Calabrese is either Psychic, a Prophet, Clairvoyant, or has a “Mole” in the Government, possibly, all the the former. His Stories tend to be more realistic than fiction. This Sunday’s story is an example of what seems to be occurring today.
    Recently, there was a edict to have clergyman to stand down from administrating to the needy at a well known military medical facility in the Washington DC area. I realize not everyone is of one faith or even a believer. But, the option to decline any offering of prayers has always been up to an individual. If the clergy person is not of the person faith or wanting the blessing of the clergyman the clergy will conform to that persons wishes or religious beliefs and provide non-denominational prayers and words of encouragement. I am certainly glad we have some stout hearten men and women that serve our country, without any reservation and in the best interest of American. Nicely, done Mr. Calabrese and your story should alert the people to keep an eye on the government and follow the Constitution.

  11. Bart says:

    If only it were true.

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